Many families with children who are disabled or have special educational needs are struggling to find information on childcare, according to a new report
It suggests that in many areas, mothers and fathers are in the dark on how to access care.
The Family and Childcare Trust’s report found that just one in five (20%) councils explain the duty of childcare providers to make “reasonable adjustments” for children with disabilities.
Around half gave information about additional support to help parents access childcare.
The findings are based on an analysis by the Trust of the “local offer” of every council in England.
Every authority must have a “local offer”, the report says, which includes giving parents clear, up-to-date information about support and services and how to access them. This includes free early education and childcare.
They must take into account disabled children and those with special educational needs as well as their families.
Around three quarters (74%) had a directory of childcare listings that were available through the local offer, and had relevant special educational needs and disability (SEND) information.
A lower proportion, around half, (51%) had a directory that allowed nurseries and childminders to include their own information, such as accessible facilities and specialist training.
“The quality of these listings varied widely and most did not include details of when they were last updated,” the report warns.
It also found that around 20% of local authorities use their local offer to provide information for early education and childcare providers on supporting children with SEND.
Ellen Broome, deputy chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “High quality information and guidance increases parents’ confidence that suitable childcare is available and helps them to overcome barriers to accessing a childcare place.
“The current lack of information adds yet another obstacle to the struggle families often face when looking for childcare that gives their children the best start in life and helps parents to work.
“Our report shows that while some local authorities are providing parents with excellent information, very few provide the comprehensive information and advice parents need.
“Most local authorities have clear areas for improvement. Local and central government must work together to make sure that every family is able to get the information they need to access high quality childcare.”
Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We were clear with the Department for Education (DfE) at the time that implementing the SEND reforms in the Children and Families Bill, including maintaining a Local Offer, was significantly underfunded by the Government and this has been borne out in reality.”
James Robinson, policy and strategic lead for children and young people at Mencap, said: “For many parents with a disabled child, including children with a learning disability, finding childcare can be a particular struggle.
“These findings highlight yet another in a long list of factors that restricts parents’ access to high quality and appropriate childcare.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Our reforms to special educational needs and disabilities support – the biggest in a generation – made it clear that councils must provide details of the support available locally, so that parents can access the information they need.
“We are supporting councils to do this by giving them £223 million of additional funding over four years to implement the reforms.”